mardi 27 novembre 2012

Christmas in France and...elsewhere


Christmas in France is not big. Or at least not as big as elsewhere. I can't exactly explain how French define Christmas or what it means for all of them, but in a nutshell, the French Christmas is a very late dinner, with presents. At least for all the people I know here who are French and whom my man knows, and that's a nice size group of French there. We will go to my sister in law's, eat very late, open presents and chat. Which is all very nice, except there is no Christmas music, no notion of Jesus or going to church anywhere, and...well no Christmas atmosphere in the land. But, it's more than other people have, so all is good. Except I still miss miss miss Christmas in Chicago (multiply that by 10). Or at grandma's house ... 

Not to say the French don't celebrate Christmas. I have been pleasantly surprised to see a few homes decorated in the village (or suburbs). They just don't "liven it up". I think it's the music, the carols and the Christmas spirit that are missing. The shopping is well there.

Starting 1st of December Christmas music is officially THE music in our home. Not because my man loves it so much that he would change the station or the CD every time I wouldn't look, but because
I am in love with Christmas. If all goes well and with God's help, the following year at our place will be Santa Clause's vacation home!

Unlike in France where Christmas starts the week of (ok they did start the decoration process in Paris and it does get really beautiful, I'll show you), it suffices to say 'Christmas' in the US and you're already talking about an atmosphere, a general state of mind, the Christmas spirit. We won't mention the Christmas shopping because that goes on in France as well. And people here say that Christmas there is all about shopping! I dare a French go have Christmas in US. And every other nation's representative who doubts Christmas is worth the fuss.
I am already planning a winter trip to Chicago like 5 years from now. Yea, crazy in love with Christmas...(and my favorite Christmas song:)
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And then there are those who say they don't like Christmas because they have no family to celebrate it with or because they are alone. NOT TRUE! For Christmas you are never alone! Look at all the people around you who are in the same state of mind (ok, not in France, but in America). Turn on the TV, or the radio, go out in the streets: how can you not feel you are not alone? Christmas is nice spent with the family but I don't think Christmas is about being with the family. Christmas is just about Christmas. Not everyone has a family and they can still enjoy it, I didn't have mine with me while in Chicago and that didn't lessen the experience. Christmas is not one day or one night, it is a season. 

Just look at the big picture:
First of all, it's Jesus' birthday, so deja a huge reason to celebrate. The music is just so wonderful, all those carols and jingle bells everywhere you turn. For example here :
If you feel alone, go to church and ask to feel the Christmas spirit if you are not a believer. Just try it.

Secondly, the decorations are so beautiful that everyone big and small admires them. It just sets the mood for admiration, relaxation and good will.

Thirdly, people know the year is soon over. No one stresses like crazy about work anymore, it's the holidays, we HAVE TO just celebrate the end of a year!

Fourthly, ok, we like to shop. It's not like we don't ever shop, we just overshop for Christmas. I do not agree with those who say they don't like Christmas because they need to spend too much on gifts. NO YOU DON'T! It's really not about that, and if you want to make it about that, shop small! Buy small attentionate little things not huge presents people will go exchange anyway. It's the intention and the attention that matters. Make a pact with your family and friends: don't exceed a certain amount for presents and/or make lists of things you would want, they can choose from. Nobody likes to spend a lot on presents. Well, except very rich people who would do it anyway.

If you think you have no one to buy gifts for, you are wrong. There are so many poor children all over the world. There are homeless people and hungry people. Buy gifts or food and take them to churches, they should know how to distribute them. Or go to charitable organizations and donate. Or offer to help cook meals for the homeless(or give food) and meet other people who feel alone. YOU ARE NOT ALONE. Christmas is not about lavishing yourself and yours in presents and food.
Christmas is about giving, yes, but giving LOVE. It will repay, you'll see.

In Romania and in the Balkans, for Christmas we would go caroling as kids to neighbors' homes, gathering candy and other goods we would be given and everyone would be happy to open up, to give, to celebrate. It was part of the normal way of things, even indispensable. Some beautiful traditions still go on in villages. Like here (not exactly what we have experienced as kids because we never wore traditional costumes - this is another region):
Carols are still taught to children today, and sang in churches during the Christmas holidays.
It is said that families would gather around the fire and sing carols at home, long time ago...and 'break' the bread - tradition explained below.
just follow this link if you wanna see more about Romanian Christmas. In Romanian, but awesome and with great description on traditions: Alynush-Blog
Ah, and look at this picture of my native city during Christmas :
and another city in RO,
Here is a short preview of the Christmas mass, like we used to attend every year at grandma's, in the village's beautiful small church. It is in Serbian, and the Serb Christmas comes on the 8th of January,
following the old calendar (which you can read about in the blog below).

And here is a wonderful description with Serbian Christmas traditions and recipes -in English !
from Navidad Latina

In France rarely anyone goes to church for Christmas.
In all the orthodox countries churches are super full inside and around.
In States even if someone would never go to church in a year's time, they would make an effort for Christmas. It is part of the Christmas 'decor'.

You can do Christmas small,
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or big(ger),
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but most importantly, remember this:
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More on Christmas soon.

1 commentaire:

  1. Bonjour Nina,
    Hi! I'm a French Canadian music and dance teacher who lives in British Columbia, Canada. I was looking online to find information about Christmas in Romania and ended up on your blog. I'm currently producing a Christmas CD for children with songs from around the world as well as a booklet. For the booklet I would like to find a photo for each country. I would like to know if it is possible to use one of your pictures (the one with girls singing) if you own it of course. I would mention your name in the booklet and also send you a CD to thank you. I have a Facebook page called ''Danses du Monde''. Merci!


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